Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Tue Jun 29 22:07:16 UTC 1999

[In the context of the joke quoted, a colleague asked me the question below, and
here's my partial answer. Any insights?]

German and Yiddish change the historical /s/ to "sh" when it's followed by a
consonant in the same syllable. I don't know if the "(C(C))Vxx, shmVxx"
construction originated in Yiddish or in Yiddish-influenced English... but I
know where to ask!

-- Mark

SANTASHMANTA n. The explanation Jewish children get for when they celebrate
Hannukah while the rest of humanity celebrates Christmas.

It recently occurred to me to wonder whether this "Santa, Shmanta" idiom (I
can't think of a good generic way to represent it, but substitute "Oedipus,
Shmedipus, so long as you love your mother," or from Tom Lehrer, "Ah, nazi,
shmazi, says Wehner von Braun," etc. etc.) actually occurs in Yiddish, or if it
originated in English?

It seems like Yiddish might have too many words already beginning with shm- for
it to be very useful, while it works very well in English where that sound
combination is rare ... do you have any insight into this?

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